Charlotte Ray sat down at a lunch table and introduced herself.
The Forsyth Central High School senior isn’t a new student, but she joined a group of new faces for lunch.
More than two months into the school year, the teenagers often have found a group of peers to eat with each day.
But recently, Central students bucked the norm for the 10th annual Mix It Up at Lunch Day, in which more than 5,000 schools participated.
According to a news release from counselor Clare Merlin, the event is “designed to break down social barriers and reduce prejudices by asking students to take one simple action — sit somewhere new during lunch for just one day.”
Merlin added that the success of last year’s event led Central students and staff to decide to make it an annual tradition.
“[It] was a positive step in bringing the student body closer together,” she wrote. “Mix It Up also fosters school spirit and unity, raises awareness about social boundaries and helps students meet different kinds of people.”
As they entered the cafeteria Tuesday, students received a lollipop with a ribbon, whose color determined where they should sit to eat.
Ray sat down at a table with a balloon that matched the color of her blue ribbon.
“These are people that are like, whoa, I’ve never seen that person before,” she said.
Ray said she learned a lot about the two sophomores at her table, from their families to the activities they’re involved in at Central.
Though students will always break into groups, she said, “I feel like we’re more open to making new friends.”
Senior Alaina Abadie said she got into that spirit by selecting a table with a color she didn’t draw, just because she didn’t know some of the people sitting there.
“I feel like our school isn’t clique-y, but there are still a lot of people to get to know,” Abadie said.
Teacher Michele Dugan said the students appeared to be participating in the event more than the inaugural year of 2010.
“I think this is the most spread out I’ve seen the cafeteria before,” Dugan said.
Looking around the school’s west lunchroom, sophomore Rachel Karlan said it seemed the daily groupings had been broken up.
“People are going for it,” Karlan said. “I think it’s fun.”
Some freshmen boys who had never previously met left the half-hour lunch period with some new connections.
Miguel Contreras said the experience was a bit awkward at first.
“You don’t know what they like, and you don’t know who they are,” Contreras said.
He learned the student across from him was a freshman and a vegetarian. They also have gym class together.
Not everyone could be swayed to give the new arrangement a try, but many were open to the idea, said sophomore Scott Perkins.
Perkins volunteered through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to hand out the ribbons.
“Mix it up,” he said, handing a lollipop to a student who entered the lunchroom as if it was the first day of school.